Losing a senior goalkeeper is an uncomfortable situation for any team.
When it happened last Thursday to Radnor with the absence of Bari Margolis against Strath Haven, it meant something much more. Her absence left Radnor with just one senior contributor on the entire roster.
In a sport where youth often rises up the ranks quickly, Radnor’s position is still unique. It’s resulted in a rough season for the Raiders, but the thought is that there’s a payoff down the line.
The Raiders have just two goals from seniors this season, one from holding midfielder Marya Ghazzi and one from Grace Mannix, who was also out of the Strath Haven meeting.
The rest of the responsibility on both sides of the ball has been shouldered by underclassmen. Juniors like Reilly Masterson and Katy Junior have led the offense with four goals each, though Junior’s season likely ended against Strath Haven with a first-half knee injury.
The defense is anchored by Abby Lord and Nulee Massaro, both juniors. Depth is provided by sophomore Quinn Fallon. Freshmen have contributed all over the field, from Allison Lanzone in defense to Maura Holst in midfield to Julianne Puckette (four goals) and Nicole Massimino on the forward line.
The growing pains are there, as a two-win record indicates. But the players that will be there beyond this season see it as a necessary evil.
“It was really hard, especially in the beginning of the season,’ Lord said. “We’ve had a bunch
of people step up as leaders, though, and I think next year we’ll have a lot of leaders and we’ll be able to play really well.’
The latest player thrust into the limelight is sophomore goalkeeper Raquel Razavi, who made her first varsity start Thursday and looked like anything but an inexperienced keeper against the reigning District One Class AAA champs. She made nine saves and several more key interventions, unafraid to be aggressive in patrolling the penalty area and proactive coming off her line.
It was the kind of brave performance beyond her years that has typified Radnor’s season. Afterward, Razavi revealed that it was the solidarity of being part of a young team that helped her surmount considerable nerves.
“I know that everyone has to go through it eventually,’ she said. “Just knowing that if anyone else can do it, I’m sure that I can do it.’
Among the many experiences they’ve had as a team this year, a postseason berth is unlikely to be one of them. Among the struggles, they are mired in a four-game scoreless streak dating back to a win over Ridley Sept. 24, and that offensive ineffectiveness was made clear against Strath Haven once Junior’s high work rate and creative movement was removed.
But the talent is certainly there, and the hope is that some struggles now will benefit a sizeable nucleus of returning players next season.
“I think the more experience the freshmen get now on the field will help them improve next year,’ Masterson said. “This year obviously we haven’t been doing so well, but I think it’s nice to just interact. You need a year to just get together and work together, and I think it helps us next year.’
“It’s making us all better soccer players,’ Lord said. “We all have to step up at such a young age, and when we get older, we’re going to play even better.